How to Paddle an Inflatable Kayak (Written for a community based Website) By Cindy Blankenship Staff Writer, SouthernOregonNews.com The pool-and-drop Rogue River is a favorite playground of Tahiti paddlers, The whitewater provides various levels of technicality for paddlers who want to test their strength and wits against the river's demands or just have fun. In between the riffles and rapids are plenty of peaceful stretches perfect for lazing in the quiet waters, watching osprey dive for fish, searching out otter, turtles and other wildlife along the banks -- or just lying back in your boat, drifting under white, puffy clouds, with the current...but don't get to relaxed as you drift around that big rock outcropping -- it's water war time, and you're about to be ambushed [grin]. The Rogue River, depending on the run, offers lots of summer fun for paddlers, young and old. Beginners with young children may be most comfortable with one of the level l runs, such as from Riverside Park to Schroeder Park, but there are many opportunities to go with a guided beginners group in the Galice area through beginners and intermediate riffles. Some have minimum age requirements. The following are tips gleaned from a rafting class taken a few years ago at Rogue Community College, personal experience, and from various river rats. 1. Begin with class one and two riffles (small rapids). Whitewater is rated on a scale of one to five -- sometimes to six depending on the river classification used. Level one is super easy and level five (or six), is run only by the most experienced or the most foolhardy. Sometimes ratings change with the river level. For example, last July a riffle near Alameda was rated a lll for rafts but still a l for kayaks and Tahiti's that could easily maneuver around some boulders exposed by the low water level that wrapped quite a few rafts. If this is your first time, take a guided trip. Never run the river alone. 2. Dress for comfort and safety: lightweight clothing, tennis shoes or river sandals (I prefer tennis because they protect my toes from the rocks), sunglasses and sunscreen, and last but not least, a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket is the number one rule in river safety. The life jacket should not be the horsecollar variety. These may be fine for lakes but easily slip off in the rapids. 3. Be prepared. Pack a first aid kit, camera (a cheap waterproof disposable or your own camera stored in a dry bag, which can be purchased as Galice Store and various sporting good stores), water pumps, guns or buckets for water wars, high-energy snacks and thirst quenchers. Zip-top bags are pocket book friendly dry bag substitutes and will also float if you blow air into them. Save the beer for after your run. Alcohol and paddling don't mix, and are the leading cause of drowning. 4. Read the river. The upside down V (the chute) is the deepest channel and where you will usually (there are exceptions such as Picket Fence on the lower Rogue) enter the whitewater. When you can't see ahead, beach your boat and walk up on the bank to get a better view, but remember to watch out for snakes hiding under rocks and brush in the heat of the day and sunning themselves in the early morning or evening. The river constantly changes, so don't take it for granted. While the Galice run from Hogs Creek to Graves Creek is known by many as the Disney run, lives have been lost here too, so don't take the changing river for granted. 5. Avoid reversal waves, also called keepers. The more powerful ones on the lower Rogue can keep a craft and paddler indefinitely. In the smaller riffles, ones such as the Galice hole can be very dangerous. They easily flip Tahiti's, throwing the paddler against the rock. But don't worry -- reversals are easy to recognize because the powerful current flips back upon its self, creating a hole (another name you'll hear them called) below the rock. Should you ever find yourself trapped underwater by a reversal; the experts say this is the one time when you should take off your life jacket. Then you can dive under the current, which may be the only way out. 6. Avoid obstructions! Water is the most powerful force on earth and doesn't have to be deep to pin someone under a fallen tree or branch. In fast moving water, avoid the water near the bank. 7. Now that we've told you want not to do, here's how to have some fun! Put in at a place where the river is fairly calm. This will give you a chance to practice paddling. Hold your paddle comfortably and with each stroke pull the water on alternate sides. Paddle lightly to conserve energy. 8. "What's that roar up ahead?" you ask as your adrenalin rises. Often the roar is bigger than the rapid, especially if you're running class l or class ll riffles. As you approach the whitewater, look for your route, usually the upside down V. Enter it head on. If your craft hits the whitewater sideways, you're apt to flip. Dig in and paddle, paddle, paddle! Rather than leaning back away from the whitewater, or lifting your paddle like they do in the commercials, paddle aggressively. This is how you will balance your inflatable canoe. 9. If you should find yourself in the water, stay calm. Lots of Tahiti paddlers have taken a spill once or twice. Float on your back, feet first with your toes up where you can see them - this reduces the chance of getting a foot caught under a rock, which could be pretty dangerous. Steer away from rocks. Do not try to swim or stand up in fast current. Go with the flow, steering away from rocks, and you'll be in calm water before you know it with your inflatable, paddle, and gear hopefully soon following! 10. If you don't flip, and you shouldn't if you remember to paddle aggressively, maneuver around the reversals and keep your craft headed straight down the V, you will be hooping and hollering and having the time of your life. You and your paddling buds, can applaud each other and take snapshots. Paddling whitewater is both a thrilling and relaxing water sport. Relaxing, because it totally occupies your mind. It's impossible to dwell on problems while you're paddling your way through the waves. And, it's a blast! 11. While it's easy to get addicted to whitewater, remember flat water has its advantages. Maybe you'll see a turtle sunning itself on a rock, a doe and her fawn watching shyly from the underbrush, or a beaver's dam (there's on at Morrison's Lodge). Lie back in your inflatable and watch the birds soar overhead...eagles, osprey and blue heron nest along the Rogue River and swallows nest in its canyon walls. If you're really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of nature's most playful creatures, river otters. Look for otters near tributaries. We snapped a photo of one on a rock, munching on a salmon. Unfortunately, I didn't use the wrist strap or put the camera away and lost it in the Galice chute. Flat water's also the time for water fights. Beware the group on the raft waving you over with Cheshire grins on their faces! My son on his first trip down the river (he was about 7) came armed with a battalion of super soakers. He was delighted to see a group of eight or so rafts pulled over at the bank engaged in water fights. He asked me to paddle over so he could join in the fun, so I hesitatingly obliged. Of course, once we neared the rafts, their battles with each other came to a quick halt as they all aimed their water weapons at us, a couple even swimming underwater up to our Tahiti's, like submarines with torpedoes! What a blast! If water fights and viewing nature isn't your cup of java, then consider this advantage to flat water. It gives you a chance to rest up for the next riffle! 12. You've reached the take out point and all good things must come to an end. But there's still the campfire or a burger and beer at Galice Resort where you'll have some good laughs and thoughtful moments reliving the days events. If you're headed home, you'll have plenty good memories and photos for reminiscing until you're next river adventure! If You Want To Go: Galice Resort, known by locals simply as Galice Store, is a full service stop for floaters. You'll find Tahiti and raft rentals, guided trips, a store with Rogue River guidebooks and river run maps, cabins, and a restaurant overlooking the river and a favorite "take-out" point. For river flow forecast and other useful information, click on "Links" at www.galice.com The following links will connect you to more river outfitters that rent Tahiti's and offer guided trips. Orange Torpedo River Adventures invented the sport of inflatable kayaking over 30 years ago. They specialize in guided inflatable kayak tours, but also offer raft options. www.orangetorpedo.com/info-rogue.html Ferron's in Merlin is another rental option www.roguefuntrips.com For those in the Shady Cove area, Wet 'n Wild www.upperrogue.org/wetnwild Guidebooks to the Rogue River can be found online at www.amazon.com ** Tahiti rentals, guided trips and shuttles can also be found in the yellow pages under "Rafts."
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